Gurnee launches programs to help businesses hurt by COVID-19 pandemic

  • Three village programs aimed at helping small businesses are underway in Gurnee.

    Three village programs aimed at helping small businesses are underway in Gurnee. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer, 2020

Updated 11/2/2021 5:45 PM

Village programs, which could cost Gurnee up to $425,000, are now underway to help small businesses that suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Small business owners can now apply for village grants of up to $10,000 as part of the largest program approved by village leaders in September, expected to cost the village around $250,000. The grant must go to improvement projects, such as a restaurant building a patio.


During a presentation to Gurnee trustees Monday night, Ellen Dean, the village's economic development director, said the improvements covered by the program need to last for a long time.

"It benefits the business, absolutely, when they're there, but it also improves the value of the commercial real estate," Dean said of the kinds of improvements eligible for village assistance. "It's meant to outlast whoever is there."

Businesses that have made improvements since Jan. 1, 2020, would also be eligible.

Village staff has 30 days to review grant applications, but Dean said many will be addressed within a week. The window for businesses to apply opened Monday.

Village leaders also voted for two other programs to help small businesses that will soon be implemented. One program will waive liquor license fees for eligible businesses. Liquor licenses usually cost businesses between $1,200 to $2,250 a year, and the plan is expected to cost the village $50,000. Excluded businesses from the liquor license waiver program include grocery and liquor stores, golf courses, hotels and businesses with more than 20 locations. Dean said liquor license renewals go out in the spring so businesses will see the savings then.

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The other program calls for cutting annual business fees in half, at a cost to the village of $125,000. The program applies to all businesses except temporary ones.

"The reality is that all businesses got hit in some way," Dean said. "That's what this (program) is really designed to address."

The programs are happening in part because of a sunnier outlook for the village's finances.

Gurnee will receive $4.1 million from the American Rescue Plan Act, the $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill approved by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden in March.

Finance Director Brian Gosnell said in September the village received the first half of the funding this month and is set to receive the rest in August.

Assistant Village Manager Jack Linehan said in September the Rescue Plan funds will offset revenue the village lost in 2020.

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